Melodic Rock Festival Z Rock 2012 is only a short time away so I thought I’d catch up with Z Records label boss & Z Rock promoter Mark Alger to discuss the upcoming show!
Hi Mark, we are only a few months away from Z Rock how are ticket sales and interest in the festival at the moment? Last year had a particularly low turnout, is this year looking more positive?
It was slow on the uptake but moving now Paul, strange thing is we have a lot of people travelling from Europe and as far away as South Korea, Japan and the US. I think 2011 was due to the recession and where we decided to stage the show.
This year sees the Festival take place at The Robin in Wolverhampton for the first time. What inspired you to move to this venue and what do you think of The Robin?
It was Vince who first put me onto it and Michael Voss had some good things to say too. Its clean yes I said clean lol. Major attraction was that they have good facilities and it’s not mega expensive drinks /food wise. I know it’s a pain when people have to decide what band to miss so that they can grab some food in the past. There is also a large outdoor area which is secure so people have little reason to leave the venue and miss anything
Z Rock has moved around various venues and areas over the years and has been going since 1999 if I’ve got my history right? In recent years the festival has moved to the Midlands, happening twice at The Birmingham Asylum and twice at JB’s Dudley. Do you think it’s important to have an established venue or City as the Festival’s home or are there advantages to moving the festival around? Taking that into account, will future Z Rock’s happen at The Robin?
Personally and being frankly honest I’m under pressure from some old friends to move it to my home city of Liverpool, however Liverpool is full of Japanese and American tourists and obviously having 2 premiership football teams doesn’t help on the hotel front, that’s the only reason it’s not there.
I had known Sam at JB’s for many years, great guy and he said “Oi get your arse down here with that show of yours” so I did. It was so easy to stage it there and when Sam fell ill I knew we wouldn’t be there in 2010 hence no show. He’s a great bloke and hope he is enjoying his retirement now, Sue and he helped me a lot since the 80’s he’s a true legend. This year has to at least break even, if it doesn’t there won’t be another Z Rock, I think it will though as there is a very positive vibe about his year’s event and tickets sales are up on those expected at this time.
What do you think of the strength of this year’s line-up, did you get the bands you wanted? Personally I think it’s a very strong line-up and the combination of Prophet and Paul Sabu on the Saturday should have most Melodic Rock fans going nuts!
Well part of Paul’s deal was to play at Z Rock, that was sealed early 2011 when he signed to us, he is really buzzing about coming over. Prophet was quite funny; we have the rights to all three albums and had never re-released or recycled. I called Scott during September and told him that at long last I was going to reissue it, he said why not re-master all three, good idea I thought. During the conversation I mentioned Z Rock and I was told to get them over so I have. It’s been so easy to arrange this year, no egos. I won’t work with any act that thinks they are Led Zeppelin and play the Diva. I’ve suffered too much because of people like that in the past who try to change things on the day etc etc.and hold us to ransom.
Which bands are you yourself particularly looking forward to seeing perform and which songs are you hoping are played?
Know what Saturday for me is a purely selfish act, I like them all lol. Despite last year’s turn out it was the first one I’ve enjoyed in years and I want it to stay that way.
This year sees the festival expand to two days over the May bank holiday weekend. Correct me if I’m wrong but this is the first time Z has done two full day line-up’s? Although you have done Friday night shows in the past.
Two full days, yes it is.
I was shocked when a second day was announced as given the current worldwide financial situation and a well noted decline in attendances across the live scene regardless of genre, made it a very risky move. When and why did you make the decision to make it a two day event?
It doesn’t help when Mike Shotton calls and says Markie as he does “get me over bro it’s been 3 years since we had a beer together”, seriously 10 min after that Michael Bormann mailed “Mark get me over to England”. Steve Newman and I had a 5 min conversation and he was happy to return to Z Rock it’s the same story with the others so it felt like it was meant to be. So I went with my gut feeling.
It is bad out there, but I have to say having Wig Wam on in 2009 on the Friday stopped a total financial disaster on the Saturday, errrrr what happened to all the John Waite fans?? He cost us a lot and I won’t do that again.
I know the continuation of the festival is dependent on the success of each one and you’ll not commit to another festival until the dust has settled on this one. Having said that in years past you have made announcements on the day for the following year’s line-up, is there any chance of that happening again this year?
Very much so Paul, we have acts that have returned to us but are yet unannounced. As I said to you years ago Paul, karma has a way of putting things right and its happening. We do have a date and 5 acts ready if we decide to move on it
Over the years you’ve received a lot of criticism for having singers perform with an English backing band. Is this purely a money saving exercise as your accused of or is there more to it and many believe using back up bands is cheating the fans how do you respond to this?
Why is it cheating, when other members can’t come or are not part of band anymore? Band line ups change did people feel ripped off when Brian Johnson replaced Bon Scott, when Ozzy was replaced by Dio, Roth by Hagar etc I think people have short memories. There were no complaints re VG in 2009 in fact people where made up as you know Paul, in addition John is Arabia and the old line up ceased in 2002 in fact even then it changed twice, once for Z Rock in England and again in Germany
In some cases the backing band has turned out to be really exceptional as was the case last year with Arabia.
That is the Arabia line up 2011 to present day.
This year’s line-up features Z label bands heavily including the headliners, was this something you wanted to do? And do you think not featuring bands from different labels across the genre affects the interest in the festival?
Let’s see Prophet and Paul Sabu errrr who wouldn’t have them headlining. They’ve never played here and any AOR melodic rock fan will be there I think the show more than stands up. Yes I am more interested in pushing our own bands because sadly a lot of other labels won’t push their acts we do and I don’t see why Z should finance their promo.
In previous years you’ve pulled in a few headline acts to attract bigger audiences with varying degrees of success. Will you return to this next year or will there be some more big name additions to the Z records roster over the next year?
As I said there are people resigned whom are not disclosed yet :-)
Festivals in general take a lot of criticism for repeating bands year after year, so with Legion and Arabia appearing again this year should we make the most of their performances as it may be a while before we see them at Z Rock again?
One of them may appear, it depends if their new albums do really well, it makes sense to bring them if that happens because the fans obviously want to see them also.
One thing that has constantly caused negativity for Z Rock, and from a fans perspective understandably so, are late changes and cancellations to the festival. This year has seen minimal changes amongst some bands at the foot of the bill, but as of yet no major names or indeed the three you announced last year have changed or pulled out. I hope I haven’t tempted fate with that statement! Do you feel announcing a full line-up all in one go, once all contracts are in place, is the way forward to combat this negativity, or will you continue to announce over time the bands set to perform?
Changes? VG didn’t play because Mike’s mother was seriously ill, Firehouse where paid and simply didn’t get on the plane!!! Yes we pulled BnB in 2008 to save the show that’s when the recession hit. The Storm let’s say people and politics did that and we won’t entertain them now. It’s not just Z Rock, Firefest have had just as many problems if not more than us since they started. I chat with Bruce on a regular basis and he totally understands my frustrations at times because he has the same.
Z Rock always notoriously runs late can we expect an early night this year or should we be prepared for us rocking into the early hours?
I’m surprised you remember Paul ;-) we can stay open until 2am
Yes buy your tickets now and get down to a great show, if you want to see these bands you simply need to buy upfront. I’ve already sorted Paul Sabu’s, Prophets and other flights and the remaining will be done next week. We have a lot already coming from the US, Far East and Europe so if you can’t get it in, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Hope to see you all there Mark.
Z Rock 2012 takes place at The Robin 2 in Bilston, Wolverhampton on the 5th and 6th of May.
You can get tickets at http://www.z-records.com/